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Health Weekender: Real men should wear sunscreen

Consumer Reports News: May 22, 2009 05:38 PM

I made my husband go to the dermatologist—and probably saved his life. He has always had a crazy pattern of moles on his back, so I make sure he goes in for an annual checkup.

But on the day of his appointment two years ago he objected, saying he didn’t have time. So I made a deal with him: He could switch with me and take my earlier appointment that morning. He went, and it was a good thing he did—he found out that he had a melanoma on his back, right below his shoulder blade. Our dermatologist cut out the offending mole but told my husband he had to have follow-up surgery to make sure it hadn’t spread.

The mortality rate for melanoma among middle-aged white men in the U.S. increased by nearly 65 percent from 1973 to 2002, according to a study in the April 2009 issue of the Archives of Dermatology. This could be in part because they’re less likely than women to go to the doctor to have their moles checked out. Plus they’re less likely to wear sunscreen in the first place, according to a Consumer Reports National Research Center survey of 1,000 adults taken last month. It found that only about one-third of men reported regularly wearing sunscreen if they knew they would be in the sun for more than four hours. They were a little better about putting on sunscreen for sunbathing (53 percent) or swimming (44 percent).

That leaves a lot of men vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer. What to do? For one thing, check your skin regularly for worrisome skin changes, and go to the doctor at least once a year to have your skin examined. And check out the results of our latest sunscreen tests and get yourself a new bottle to use this summer. Then promise you’ll use it, not just when you’re going to the beach or pool, but also when you’re doing yard work or going for a walk. My husband puts on sunscreen now like his life depends on it. Which it does.

Sue Byrne, senior editor

Take a look at our tips for staying safe in the sun, and see some important questions to ask your doctor if you suspect one of your moles might be a melanoma

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